Monticchiello—Tuscany's Overlooked Gem
Tucked away among the rolling Tuscan landscape south of Siena in the heart of the Val d’Orcia is what I consider to be one of the most beautiful medieval villages in all of Tuscany. Largely overlooked by tourists, which is a good thing, Monticchiello has managed to retain both its physical and cultural history.
Perched high on a hill overlooking the valley, the entrance to the village from the Porta Sant’Agata (city gate) offers absolutely stunning views across the valley to Pienza. This extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany, the Val d'Orcia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. We stumbled onto this Tuscan gem, Monticchiello, not by accident, but at the suggestion of our host, Giacomo, at the Agriturismo Le Caggiole.
Arriving in Monticchiello early in the day, we found ourselves almost alone in the village among the few locals who were out. Sensing that we were tourists, we were approached by a few of the residents for some interesting conversation in which they understood no English and we understood very little Italian. Despite the obvious language barrier, we somehow managed to communicate with these warm and hospitable folks.
Strolling through Monticchiello, one can imagine that this village has probably changed little over the centuries. The remaining towers, one of which is now privately owned, hearken back to the day when they were fortifications to defend the village. It seems as though time has frozen for Monticchiello. With less than 200 inhabitants, many locals occupy the Porta Sant’Agata to greet the limited number of tourists that find their way here. As there is only one way in and one way out of Monticchiello, it is easy to notice visitors heading up the hill from the parking area below.
Once inside the walls of this ancient village, you will immediately notice that the locals take great pride in their dwellings. Nearly every home is adorned with blooming pots of flowers and the laundry hanging overhead seems to add to the ambiance of this charming place. The village center is dominated by the Church of Santi Leonardo and Christoforo which dates back to the 13th century. Take some time to walk through the church and admire the frescoes while you are here. With virtually no other tourists around you can move with ease and not feel rushed.
Scenes from MonticchielloClick thumbnail to view full-size
If you happen upon Monticchiello during the summer months from mid-July to mid-August, make it a point to see the “Teatro Povero” (Poor Theatre). This nightly theatrical experience is written, directed, and recited by the residents of Monticchiello and ia a testament to the life and history of its people. Although we did not get to experience the theatre in September, I would imagine this to be a highlight of Monticchiello.
For a couple of restaurant suggestions, stop by either La Taverna di Moranda or Osteria La Porta. You can check Tripadvisor for reviews of both restaurants. If you are looking for outdoor seating with a view of the valley then opt for Osteria La Porta. If the view is not of concern then consider La Taverna di Moranda. This family-owned Bistro with its stone walls, vaulted beamed ceilings, and unique archways, offers a truly Tuscan atmosphere.
- Agriturismo Review - Le Caggiole - Montepulciano, Tuscany
Agriturismo Le Caggiole is located just outside of the medieval town of Montepulciano. The beautifully restored farmhouse is the perfect setting for a visit to the Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany.
So, if you find yourself heading to southern Tuscany, make it a point to visit Monticchiello. The more well-known Tuscan towns that everyone visits such as Siena, San Gimignano, and Montepulciano, are all beautiful in their own right, but they can also be overrun with tourists depending on when you visit. For a more relaxed atmosphere and experience, try one of Tuscany’s truly overlooked gems.
Ciao for now.
Monticchiello - Southern Tuscany
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© 2012 Bill De Giulio